Crawford And Tigers Shut Down Rebels

Auburn earned a victory in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader as pitcher Evan Crawford was very good in the win.

Oxford, Miss.--Freshman pitcher Evan Crawford gave up just five hits in seven innings and Auburn exploded for four runs in the seventh inning to break open a tie game on the way to a 6-2 victory in game two of Saturday's doubleheader against Ole Miss. The win improves Auburn to 15-19 overall and 4-7 in SEC play while the Rebels fall to 18-13 and 5-6 in conference action.

After struggling on the mound in game one of the doubleheader in a 14-2 loss, Auburn came back strong with Crawford dominant from beginning to end in his outing. The victory improves his overall record to 4-4 as he tied his career long outing in the victory. Coach Tommy Slater said the victory was a very big one for his team and much of the reason for the win came on the shoulders of Crawford.

"He's the guy," Slater said of Crawford. "What I mean by that is that he's the complete package. He's got good stuff and he's got a lot of mental toughness. He's going to be really a special guy for us the next couple of years. I'm just so glad we have him and I'm really proud of him. He's turned himself into a guy that came into here with a really good arm that threw, now he's starting to become a pitcher. He really did a nice job of filling up the strike zone for us."

Crawford has now lasted at least five innings in five consecutive starts for the Tigers.

At the plate the star of the show was second baseman Tyler Johnstone. Finishing with three hits, including a pair of RBI singles, Johnstone delivered in the ninth as the Tigers added an important insurance run. As one of the few seniors on the team Johnstone said he knows how important it is to win on the road in the SEC. That's something the Tigers accomplished for the first time with the victory.

"It was nice to have one drop," Johnstone said. "I think that gave us a four-run lead at that point. I knew our pitching would hold on for our first road victory of the year."

Once again Auburn got things going early with a threat in the first inning as Johnstone led off with an infield single to get the Tigers going. Following him in the order, right fielder Russell Dixon reached on a walk to bring red hot Mike Bianucci to the plate. After getting four hits in the first game of the doubleheader, Bianucci once again came through with a single to load the bases with nobody out. Unfortunately Josh Donaldson continued his tough day at the plate by grounding into a double play. Johnstone scored on the play to give Auburn the early lead, but that would be all as Andy Bennett popped up to end the inning.

With an early lead Crawford was good early, but ran into some trouble in the bottom of the third when Ole Miss scored a run to tie the game at one. Leading off number nine hitter Brett Basham doubled to right field to get the Rebels going in the inning. Leadoff man Justin Henry then executed a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to third with one out. A ground ball by C.J. Ketchum scored Basham to make it 1-1 after three innings of play.

After that it was all pitching and defense for both teams as Crawford and Ole Miss starter Brett Bukvich dominated the game through the middle innings. It wasn't without close calls for both though as both teams threatened in the sixth inning but came up empty. Leading off the top of the sixth, Johnstone walked to put Auburn in business. Following a sacrifice bunt by Dixon that moved the runner to second, Bianucci was walked intentionally to bring Donaldson to the plate. The move proved to be a smart one for the Rebels as for the second time in the game and fourth time on the day Donaldson hit into a double play. This one ended the inning with the score still tied.

Crawford then escaped a jam of his own in the bottom of the sixth as a leadoff walk to Zack Cozart put him in a jam against the Rebels. After getting the first out of the inning, another walk to Alex Presley brough Jon-Jon Hancock to the plate. Crawford got Hancock on a fly ball for out number two, but a double steal gave Crawford an open base to work with and he pitched around Logan Power to face Basham with the bases loaded. The move was a good one for the Tigers as Basham's soft liner was snared by Bennett to end the inning.

That would give the Tigers some much needed momentum and they used it effectively for a big inning in the top of the seventh. Bennett got things going as he reached after being hit by a pitch and advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Luke Greinke. Left fielder Jeff Boutwell followed with an infield single that put runners on first and third with just one out.

With runners on the Tigers would have to score against Ole Miss ace reliever Garrett White, who came into the game with a 3-0 record and an ERA of just 1.27. Those numbers didn't faze Auburn at all as shortstop Justin Bristow lined a double down the right field line to score Bennett and leave runners on second and third. Catcher Jonathan Rasberry then followed suit with a double of his own that scored two more Tigers. Johnstone put the finishing touches on the inning with a single up the middle that scored Rasberry to make it 5-1 Auburn.

With a four-run lead Crawford went out and pitched a scoreless seventh for his final inning on the day. Reliever Johnny Thompson would come on in the eighth inning and give up a single run to the Rebels. With one out Presley singled and Hancock followed with a double to right field to cut the lead to three. Following a pop up for the second out of the inning Thompson picked off Hancock at second to end the inning with Auburn still up by three.

The Tigers added some insurance in the top of the ninth inning thanks to Johnstone's hitting at the top of the order. Leading off the frame, Boutwell was hit by a pitch to put the Tigers in business. After moving up on a sacrifice bunt by Bristow, Boutwell scored one out later as Johnstone singled up the middle to make it 6-2 Tigers.

Greinke came on in the ninth inning for his first SEC appearance this season. After missing nearly a month on the mound with a strained muscle in his arm, the freshman shut the door on the Rebels with a scoreless ninth. The win evens the series with Ole Miss and gives the Tigers a shot at their second-straight series victory in conference play.

Auburn finished with nine hits for the game as Boutwell was the only player other than Johnstone to have multiple hits. He was 2-4 on the night from the number seven spot in the order. For Ole Miss Coghlan and Cozart combined for four of the team's eight hits against Auburn pitching.

The two teams return to action Sunday at 1:30 when junior Chris Dennis returns to the mound for the Tigers against freshman Lance Lynn for the Rebels.

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